Moving in or getting married? Why a domestic contract matters


Property division after separation depends on whether the couple was married or living common-law. A domestic contract lets a couple set their own terms in their relationship.

A domestic contract is a legal agreement. Domestic contracts include cohabitation agreements, marriage contracts and separation agreements.

“Pre-nups” are domestic contracts

A cohabitation agreement is an agreement between a couple that either lives together or is about to do so.

A marriage contract is very similar to a cohabitation agreement, except that it is for couples who are married or planning to marry.

If you are considering a cohabitation agreement or marriage contact, to be legally binding, the contract must be in writing and signed by each person in the presence of a witness. It’s crucial that each person gets independent legal advice to make sure they understand the terms of the agreement and, in particular, how their rights under the agreement may be different than their rights under the law.

People also have the right to full and honest information about the other person’s financial situation, including income, property and debts.

Domestic contracts may be overturned when one person isn’t honest with the other.

Property division

Property division for separating married couples is different then for couples that were common-law. Common-law relationships do not provide an automatic right to an equal sharing of the property.

After a common-law relationship ends, people leave with the property they brought with them, plus whatever they can prove they bought during the relationship. To receive a share of the property that was accumulated during the relationship, a person would have to prove to the court that she has made contributions, direct or indirect, to its value.

For more information

Learn more on our Family Court and Beyond website: